Manhunt for transient man accused of killing Former Merced DA’s son

News

Atwater Police Department have identified a transient man believed to be responsible in the murder of Ethan Morse, 22, Atwater, the son of Former Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse. 

Police Chief Michael Salvador stated in a news presser that Dagoberto Franco Penaloza, 26, is the prime suspect in this homicide case. 

“The nature of this investigation has changed from just an investigation into a manhunt,” Salvador said. 

Investigators receiving a tip last week which helped them connect Franco Penaloza to the March homicide

Blue and white flowers and a burned out candle marks the area of where Morse was shot to death near a busy intersection. 

Salvador said it’s unclear whether Morse knew Franco Penaloza  but police believe the suspect walked away from the crime scene. 

“We tracked him on surveillance devices from ring door cameras to business surveillance,” he said. 

According to police, moments leading to the shooting, Morse had just dropped his daughter off at daycare.

Salvador said investigators determined Franco Penaloza was in the Atwater area working as a landscaper.  
“Were still trying to lock down the motive piece and that is probably the most difficult piece of this case is the motive part,” he said.

Franco Penaloza is also wanted by Menlo Park Police, the suspect which also goes by the name Gustavo Torres, is also wanted for an attempted murder case, that took place in 2017. 

Menlo Park Police told Your Central Valley, Franco Penaloza shot a 29-year-old multiple times, the victim did survived 

Franco Penaloza was last known to live in the East Palo Alto area but Salvador said the suspect is described as a transient with ties to the Bay Area, Modesto, and Red Bluff. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Atwater Police Department. 

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